One of the series that I enjoyed watching on Prime Video was The Path. Around the same time, I was enjoying reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. While the web series and the book are not connected, as a viewer and reader, I found a common theme. The inherent violent, rather competitive nature of man, the use of myths and stories to advance control over bands of people are timeless. Cognitive behaviors and social needs inherent in our genes are tools to further the misgivings and insecurities of humans leading to subjugation.
“…an imagined order is always in danger of collapse, because it depends upon myths, and myths vanish once people stop believing in them. In order to safeguard an imagined order, continuous and strenuous efforts are imperative. Some of these efforts take the shape of violence and coercion.”Prof. Yuval Noah Harari
Placing both the series and the book side-by-side, I could articulate the problem I perceive in any organized religion, movement, or cult. It is the concept that nonconformists are beyond redemption and need to be brought into the fold to be cured, saved, and protected. This thought leads to hatred, subjugation, divisiveness, a holier-than-thou attitude and eventually a thrust towards conversion. The same holds true in the political world.
Religion or spirituality has to be a personal experience. Till a religion teaches that the people on the other side of the fence are sinners requiring the intervention of its followers to cleanse them, that religion is teaching hatred and it cannot be a world religion. Can we identify any world religion today … None … Each one says unless you join my tribe of followers you are doomed! This is my reason for keeping away from organized faith of any sort.
Now the question is, why do leaders and preachers demand sole allegiance or conversion to a faith, calling it “The Path” to world peace or Eden or whatever. The first reason is self-aggrandizement, and the second reason is funding and fame. Money and ego are the root of all religious hullabaloo and power struggles. Sadly, followers of organized religion—as parents, teachers, social influencers—are propagating this same theory of hatred towards nonconformists in the younger generation. In politics, we are refusing to listen to the other viewpoint—nationalism is being equated with patriotism, and supremacists demand undivided ownership of privilege.
In a world steering towards hatred, when our generation had hoped for a New World Order for a unified flag, for spirituality, and peace, for love for nature, and a flourishing environment, we swiftly slipped into a sinkhole. The only good news we heard in some time was that the hole in the Ozone layer was finally healing. When I was a child, the depleting ozone layer seemed like the biggest bogeyman. Look around you now; every other person is threatening another for holding a different political ideology, for practicing a different faith, for being of another color or race.
I do not know how politics can be cleaned up but maybe we can start with religion because we are born into the religion of our families and introduced into its rituals and customs within the first week of our life on earth! What if we find a personal, unorganized religion; one that doesn’t condition young minds from the start, to look at people different from them with suspicion. What if we started a new religion of love and peace, in our homes, in our family of three, four, or five, and allowed our children to flourish in empathy and compassion!
I wonder if it’s possible or is our destiny set in stone on the foundation of myths and coercion, for Harari says, “… despite the astonishing things that humans can do, we remain unsure of our goals and we seem to be as discontented as ever.”